DIURNAL: active during the day (as opposed to nocturnal)

My wife reports that one of the symptoms of dementia may be a confused diurnal/nocturnal schedule.   When this occurs, the patient wants to sleep during the day and to roam and be active during the night.   Light doesn’t seem to matter.  In the confusion of the mind the time clock within the patient/resident is reversed.  It is not uncommon in facilities dedicated to the care of persons with dementia.  The staff is aware of the condition and can adjust to it or even work with the resident to try to train their mind to get back on a “normal” day/night schedule.  But it is not always a successful training.

I expect that there is some of this confusion present in the lives of persons who have jobs that begin at 11:00 at night and end at 7:00 in the morning.  Friends I have known who have encountered this job requirement say that getting used to the shift is difficult at first, but that eventually a sense of normality sets in.   The difficulty comes on days off and holidays or vacations when the person has to shift to accommodate their family.   It takes time to make that adjustment, and it is just about then that the vacation is over and the re-adjustment to nocturnal life reappears.

It is clear to me that some people are born with greater energy, alertness and productivity during a nocturnal schedule.   I am clearly a diurnal person and would have great difficulty needing to be productive at 3:00 in the morning.  When the evening shadows begin to occur my energy level decreases, and by the time the darkness of nightfall has descended, I’m ready for sleep, whether in a chair or in my bed.   My wife, on the other hand, has always been someone who gets energy in the late evening, and would be just fine operating long after I’m toast.  She, like other nocturnal people, has adjusted to what I would call the “norm” of diurnal activity, and does just fine.  I don’t think I’d be as good if I had to make the shift to night-time obligations.

I really enjoy The Late Show with David Letterman but seldom get to see the whole show.  I’m more a Morning Joe person these days, relishing the clarity and energy I have at the early hours of the day.

The phenomenon of diurnal reversal is clearly demonstrated in younger generations, for whom the “evening” may begin at 11:00 or midnight.   Some clubs or entertainment locations don’t even begin their stage performances until those hours, knowing that the young people will wander in then and expect to be there until the wee hours of the morning.

One of my friends was the chaplain at a college where he established a campus worship service on Thursday evenings at 10:00.   It was an hour that fit the more nocturnal schedule of the students, who were just getting energy at that time.   The numbers of students attending at that hour were far more significant than at the traditional 10:00 or 11:00 hour on Sunday morning, when most students were still sleeping, having been active until 3 or 4:00 or later.  It made sense.

In one of the town where we have lived, there was a barber shop/style salon that didn’t open until 10:00 at night.  The barber said that the schedule began a long time ago when shift workers were better able to get to him at 11:30 at night rather than during the day.   All night supermarkets and discount department stores are not without customers at 2:00 in the morning.  Some people time their shopping intentionally for the late night hours when they are more alert, and there is less confusion in the aisles.

The recognition of this phenomenon of nocturnal/diurnal “confusions” may be a marketing factor for businesses that are equipped to accommodate the challenge.   Just don’t start calling me in the middle of the night to market your services or goods.  I’m a diurnal person and have no desire to change.

 

Photo Credit: Bob King

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